On Peter’s Denial

Amongst all the sufferings of that last night of our Saviour’s life, nothing went so much to his heart as the behaviour of his own Apostles: one of them betrayed him, all of them abandoned him, and Peter, the very chief of them all, who had been the most favoured by his Master, and who upon all occasions had professed the greatest zeal and love for him, thrice denied that he knew him. O my soul, pity thy Saviour, thus forsaken by all his friends. Hear his complaints: ‘I looked on my right hand, and beheld, and there was no one that would have me. Flight has perished from me, and there is no one that hath regard to my soul!’ Ps. cxli. 5. And again, ‘Friend and neighbour Thou hast put away far from me, and my acquaintance, because of my misery.’ Ps. lxxxvii. 19. But what was it induced Peter to deny his Lord and Master, who a little while before had drawn his sword to defend him against an armed multitude, and had cut off the ear of the man that offered to lay hands on him, and who had boasted that very night, that though all the rest should forsake him, he would always cleave to him; that he was ready to go with him to prison and to death; and that though he were to die for it, he would never deny him? What was it? Alas! the voice of a poor maid, putting the question to him, if he were not one of his disciples, put him in such terror that he not only denied, but even swore and cursed himself if ever he knew the man! Good Jesus! what is man – what is he not capable of; if thou support him not by thy grace. O look well to me, Lord, and stand by me, or I shall also deny thee.

Consider how Peter came to fall so quickly after such strong resolutions and so much zeal for his Master. Alas! he depended too much upon his resolutions; he did not sufficiently know himself; he built too much upon his own strength; and this secret presumption was the chief cause of his fall. Ah! my soul, beware of any confidence in thyself; thou art never nearer falling than when thou seemest to have the strongest resolutions, if thy resolutions are built upon mere sand, and not upon the rock, which is Christ. Peter slept when he was admonished to watch and pray lest he should fall in the time of temptation; this neglect was another occasion of his sin, by depriving him of that grace which otherwise would have effectually preserved him. See, my soul, if thy frequent falls be not owing to thy neglect of watching and praying. In fine, Peter was too rash in exposing himself to the danger by going into the company of the enemies of our Saviour, and giving ear to their discourses, which so far influenced him as to make him ashamed of his Master. Beware lest the like causes should have the like effects in thee. Beware of bad company, and of all such conversations as may make thee ashamed of Christ or his maxims, or any way influence thee to the prejudice of thy soul.

Consider in Peter’s three denials, how easily one fall draws on another, and generally speaking a deeper; and learn from hence the necessity of a speedy repentance. Alas! Peter now fallen, as he passed over unregarded the crowing of the cock, so he might have continued in his sin, and died in his sin too, had not his loving Redeemer, in the midst of all the outrages he was suffering, cast an eye of pity upon him, and touching his heart at the same time with a strong and efficacious grace, sent him out from the wicked company he was in, to weep bitterly in private for his sins; a practice which he is said ever after to have retained, as often as he heard the cock crowing. Bless thy Lord, my soul, for the mercy he showed to this Apostle. Learn to imitate him by a ready correspondence with divine grace, when it invites thee to go out from Babylon, the society of the wicked, and to weep bitterly for thy sins. But O! content not thyself with short passing acts of repentance, but if thou wouldst be secure, bewail thy sins like St. Peter as long as thou livest.

Conclude to be always upon thy guard, and if thou seemest to thyself to stand, take heed lest thou fall. Thou hast not half the strength that Peter had; be not then high-minded, but fear. Humility is thy best security.

— A meditation by Bishop Challoner.

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